Father Robert, OCD: Lent – first and second mansions

Photo Credit: Lorelei Low, ocds

There are some basic steppingstones for each of the three stages of the prayer life and I will relate just some of the basic points. It’s not an exhaustive representation of the first three Mansions by any means, but it’s a start.

The first stage, or the First Mansion is a state of friendship with God – being in “good terms” with God, but not on the level of deep intimacy. A person in this stage does not yet have a personal relationship with Jesus, but is just living a godly life as best as possible.

That’s a big difference. One is trying to be as observant of one’s religion and faith as possible, live a good godly decent life, but doesn’t have a deep, personal relationship with God yet in the first stage. A person in the first stage usually makes a conscientious effort to avoid mortal sin, and is no longer captive to the world of the flesh and the devil, to the same extent as those outside the castle.

At least now, some kind of prayer life is in place. The common form of prayer in the first stages is vocal prayer: recited prayers, communal prayer, the rosary. For example, praying before meals and after meals, the rosary on occasions, going to Mass on Sunday, the Guardian Angel prayer before going to bed. Just simple things like this – the first stage.

There are no manifestations of the actions of God in this soul, nothing extraordinary or supernatural happening. The primary gift of the Spirit in this stage, in terms of what the Scholastics called the gifts of moral perfection, is Fear of the Lord, which is a good thing because this is the first stage of wisdom.

You don’t want to offend God. As we say in the Act of Contrition ‘My God I’m sorry for my sins in choosing to sin, and failing to do good.’ Fear of the Lord is a good start.

The second stage or Second Mansion is a deeper, more active life of friendship with God. A spiritual life now is starting to begin, and a personal relationship with Jesus is becoming more meaningful and important to me, personally in a deeper level.

At this stage, people say things like, ‘I was Catholic all my life, but I didn’t know it could be this good. I didn’t know adoration. I didn’t know about all these great treasures of the Church. I didn’t know any of that. I have been a Catholic going to church all my life and for the first time, I am discovering Catholicism, I am discovering Jesus.

This is the second stage. Searching for a deeper meaning in life, and all the strength of heart and will is now directed to growing spiritually. Whereas before, I was just into shopping, fashion, sports, television, entertainment and vacations. I was trying to be as good as possible, but ultimately, my passions were about those things.

But now, for the first time, I am serious about wanting to grow spiritually, and it’s actually important to me. I’m making it a priority. In this new birth in grace, one begins to become a new creation. A new self begins to emerge, the true self. The soul applies itself to a deeper prayer than before. Now, one has become exposed, interested, and begun to practice meditation, what Saint Teresa refers to us Mental Prayer or Recollection.

SOURCE: Teresa 5, Copyright 2018, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD


Teresa Linda, ocds: they are Christ crucified

NOTE:  Here is the text from a brief conference I was asked to give in my children’s school for a Lenten Retreat focusing on Who is my neighbor? Cultivating a heart of mercy.

One of the goals of our school’s Mission Statement is “A social awareness that impels to action.” Or as I like to translate it – a faith-life that impels to action.

Impel. This is exactly what happened  while Mark and I lived in West Philadelphia. As UPenn graduates, we saw privilege, surrounded at all sides by poverty, but once we walked among the people who lived that poverty, we couldn’t turn our backs on them. We were impelled to act.

As newly weds and new college grads, Mark and I owned the only home we could afford, a beautiful three-story house in a “condemned neighborhood” as one African-American woman said to the realtor when we were trying to sell it, before our move to California.

During the eighties and nineties, drugs poured into urban cities throughout the United States. Nobody really knew it back then, but the United States government was arming the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and profits somehow got in the hands of powerful drug cartels in Colombia. The result was the crack epidemic and we lived in a house in West Philadelphia during its height.

On the news, we saw our neighborhood being portrayed as a place of death, crime, violence – perpetrated predominantly by African-Americans. The war on drugs had started and a whole generation of young black men were criminalized and jailed.

Yes, there were drug dealers on every street corner and we feared for our lives because of the random violence, but we saw more than that. As West Philly community members who lived in the ‘hood’ we saw beautiful people who valued real friendships. We saw a community trying to hold itself together despite all odds and loving one another authentically.

I often chatted on the front porches with grandmothers who were waiting for their sons to get out of jail and others who watched their children succumb to crack addiction; I sat on rowhome steps early in the morning with a prostitute who spoke with a German accent, after she had just finished her evening shift.

I would also talk with schizophrenics who lived in a nearby group home, for as long as I could follow the string of their confused thoughts. And I spent many evenings trying to convince thirteen-year-old girls from the projects that love wasn’t about handing our bodies over to any boy with empty words.

In this invisible war zone in plain site, people tried to help one another any way we could. I was once pushed out of three feet of snow by a man with scars that ran down his cheek and who once led the Junior Black Mafia. A drug dealer protected Mark from teens who weren’t part of the neighborhood, and who seemed ready to shoot him after he tried to stop them from tagging a wall.

And when the main water pipe from the third floor in our house broke, ruining our  first floor walls and  ceilings while Mark was away on a trip abroad, it was a young man who had just been released from jail, who spent three days replacing the plaster. He wouldn’t take any more than $50 from me.

A personal encounter with the suffering of Christ in the suffering of people changes a person, and once we came face to face with this wholly different narrative, we couldn’t turn our backs.

We lived in West Philadelphia for fifteen years and in that time until now, I’ve willfully chosen to work with urban communities in my teaching. It’s a job that has terrible pay, earns me absolutely no social capital, and requires many weekend hours of grading.

Because of my teaching schedule, I can’t be involved very much in the school community, where meetings often happen early in the morning, when I am teaching. But I know that with my parenting support at home, that my now four children will be fine.

So yes, there have been many sacrifices. Yet I do it because I want to give young people who have so much stacked against them a chance of pulling their lives together through an education that can lead to a financially stable career.

As  parents, we give our children every single kind of advantage we are able to give . We give them financial support, emotional support, tutoring instructors, summer camps and international travel.

At-risk students who live in poor communities are just as capable and deserving of those opportunities as our own children. The only difference is that they do not have the kinds of support we are able to provide.

A poem I wrote a few years ago captures why I am impelled to work with marginalized communities:


Crucified by human weakness, yet they still appear through the classroom doorway each day.

Young people who care for dying family members,
Squeezing studies between a forty-hour work week
And visits to the hospital,
Barely adults themselves, they are thrust forcefully into adulthood

And overnight, after a parent has suddenly died or disappeared,
Must become from brother to father; daughter to mother.

The virility of youth, stolen,
Without warning
By brain disease, cancer, blindness.
A stray bullet. Intentional gunfire. Knife wounds.

Hopes shattered,
By an American Dream that must be delayed, seemingly into eternity,
For families who trekked hundreds of miles on foot,
To a land that held twisted, broken promises.

The poor, the misunderstood, the invisible.
The scapegoats of the failures of society.

The eyes of these beautiful souls
Look up at me from their seats,
And I am deeply humbled.

They… they are Christ crucified.
Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God.


Deacon Charles Seagren, ocds: Lent – Here I am

ISAIAH 58: 2-6

2They seek me day after day, and desire to know my ways, Like a nation that has done what is just and not abandoned the judgment of their God; They ask of me just judgments, they desire to draw near to God.

3“Why do we fast, but you do not see it? afflict ourselves, but you take no note?”See, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits, and drive all your laborers.

4See, you fast only to quarrel and fight and to strike with a wicked fist! Do not fast as you do today to make your voice heard on high!

5Is this the manner of fasting I would choose, a day to afflict oneself? To bow one’s head like a reed, and lie upon sackcloth and ashes? Is this what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

6Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking off every yoke?

Jesus Heals a Mute Posssesed Man by James Tissot

Will we fast in heaven?
It’d be rude wouldn’t it
to fast there at the heavenly wedding feast,
in the presence of Love Himself?

But when He’s taken away
then we fast.
Not that He’s ever absent —
but we can be absent from Him
through sin or forgetfulness or distraction.

That’s when He calls,
Where are you?
and like Adam and Eve
we hide in the Garden
or like Peter, James and John
we fall asleep.

That’s why we fast:
To stand before God
just as we are,
trusting in His love,
in all our hunger and nakedness and need.
To wake up and see
as God sees,
with eyes of mercy.

That’s when we understand His call
to love in deed and in truth,
to love Christ concretely
in the prisoner, the oppressed,
the hungry, the homeless, the stranger,
even the person we like the least.

And in that love we hear His voice –
not Isaiah’s or Jeremiah’s or Samuel’s or any other prophet’s –
but God Himself says,
Here I am.

Upcoming Lenten Retreats and more…

Sisters Aurelia, Theofila, Jacinta, and Salverina

MARCH 24-25,  2018: “The Shining Radiance of Prayer” is a two-day silent retreat for men and women. Saint Teresa of Avila said, “For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God, a personal conversation with someone who loves us.”

8:45 am, Saturday March 24 – 1:00 pm Sunday March 25. Silence will be maintained until lunch time, Sunday.

PRESENTERS: The Daughters of Carmel, who are rooted in the Carmelite Spirituality and are also open to the call of the Holy Spirit through the Charismatic Renewal.

The program will include: conferences on prayer, vocal prayer (rosary, Divine Mercy chaplet),  mental and contemplative prayer (the Jesus Prayer, nature meditation, adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, Scripture meditation), a prayer service and Palm Sunday Mass, and spiritual

More details will be given during Saturday check-in registration.

WHERE:  Vallombrosa Center
250 Oak Grove Avenue
Menlo Park, CA 94025-3218

COST: $155 (includes food and lodging)

 Here’s the flyer.



Live Free! An UNBOUND Seminar – 5 Keys to Freedom in Christ

WHEN: Saturday, March 17, 8:45am-5:00 pm

WHERE: Saint Dominic’s Catholic Church, 2390 Bush Street, San Francisco




Deacon Charles Seagren, ocds: Lent – Joseph’s robe

Joseph Sold into Egypt. Genesis 37:1-4

1 Jacob settled in the land where his father had sojourned, the land of Canaan.

2This is the story of the family of Jacob. When Joseph was seventeen years old, he was tending the flocks with his brothers; he was an assistant to the sons of his father’s wives Bilhah and Zilpah, and Joseph brought their father bad reports about them.

3 Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he had made him a long ornamented tunic.

4When his brothers saw that their father loved him best of all his brothers, they hated him so much that they could not say a kind word to him.  Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told his brothers, they hated him even more.

The Selling of Joseph
Rabbi Reuven Mann

Jacob gave Joseph
a long ornamented robe.
It’s a symbol of enthronement.
Joseph is the well-beloved son,
favorite of his father.

Later he’s stripped of that robe.
His brothers soak it in blood
to convince their father he’s dead.
Then they sell him into slavery:
why not make a profit?
He’s finished,
he won’t come back to bother us.

Jesus too is dressed in a robe,
a purple robe meaning kingship.
He’s crowned with thorns
and beaten,
and the bloody robe sticks to His skin.
Then He’s stripped of it
and led to the cross.

Over and over we reject the messengers
and finally the Son Himself.

But the light shines in darkness
and can’t be conquered.
No matter what
the Dream is true,
the Promise kept.

Joseph forgave his brothers.
and many were saved from famine.
Jesus forgives us from the cross
and all the world is saved.

God works marvels
using even our sins
to work for the good.

In Mass
by His providence
we gather in Holy Communion.

The famine is over.

Deacon Charles Seagren, OCDS: Lent – Jonah

Luke 11: 29-32: The Demand for a Sign

29While still more people gathered in the crowd, he said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.

30Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.

31 At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here.

32 At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.

Pieter Lastman, Jonah and the Whale

The word of God came to Jonah a second time.

Well, we know what happened the first time:
when the call came, Jonah hung up.
He ran as far as he could in the opposite direction,
thrown into the sea, swallowed by a great fish,
spewed out on a beach.
He did everything he could to escape God’s word.

But God gives him – and us – a second chance.
Maybe that’s what the sign of Jonah is:
the miracle of another chance.

That’s what Lent is too:
another chance to remember
in a special way
what’s always true:
the need to repent,
to draw closer to God and our neighbor,
the constant need for conversion of heart.

Like the king of Nineveh
we lay aside our robe
of pride and power
and kneel before the true King
in contrition,
in prayer and fasting and almsgiving.

Today we’re in the presence of Someone
greater than Jonah, greater than Solomon.
greater than anything we can imagine.
Bend your knee,
open your heart
and follow where He leads.

Deacon Charles Seagren, OCDS: Lent – Listen to Him

Matthew 17:1-9 The Transfiguration of Jesus.

1 After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.

2 And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.

3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.

4Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

6 When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid.

7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.”

8And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

Sunset at Mt. St. Josephs Monastery. San Jose, CA. Photo credit: thespeakroom.org

Listen to Him


Listen to Him.

It’s not easy to listen
even if the Voice does come from a cloud
up on Mount Tabor.

It’s easier to get busy and put up three tents
or fall to the ground in fear
or talk among ourselves:
what does He mean?

Listen to Him.

Listening is more than just hearing.
It’s not the idle listening of everyday life
with the TV in the background.
It’s not to nod your head while your eyes glaze over.

Listening to Jesus is to pay attention,
to try to understand, and to follow.
Listening is to be a disciple.

We see it in Abram
when God asks Him to leave his home and family
and go who knows where.
God doesn’t tell him.

But Abram pulls up his tent pegs and goes anyway.
He becomes Abraham our father in faith.
That’s spiritual life:
we leave behind what holds us back
and go somewhere we don’t know yet.

And we see it in Peter James and John
when Jesus passes by on the seashore
and says, Come, follow Me
and they go.

They leave their nets behind.
And they will need that reminder
for the great test of His trial and crucifixion and death:
Listen to Him.



Monday 2/26 USCCB National Call-in Day for Dreamers

FOR MORE INFORMATION:   Please let others know if you want to support the teachings of the Catholic Church, as advocated by our Catholic Bishops and priests.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is urging Catholics to:

“Please participate to the Call in day to Congress, Monday, February 26, 2018. Your advocacy is critical to help the nearly 1.8 million Dreamers, young people who were brought to the United States by their parents as children. They may face deportation as soon as March 6, unless Congress reaches a bi-partisan deal to protect them. Please follow these easy steps to help:

1) Please call 855-589-5698 to reach the Capitol switchboard and press 1 to connect to your Senators. Once you are connected to each Senators office, please ask the person on the phone to deliver this simple message:

I urge you to support a bipartisan common-sense and humane solution for Dreamers:

  • Protect Dreamers from deportation and provide them with a path to citizenship
  • Reject proposals that undermine family immigration or protections for unaccompanied children
  • As a Catholic, I know that families are not ‘chains’ but a blessing to be protected

Act now to protect Dreamers, our immigrant brothers and sisters.

2) Please call 855-589-5698 a second time to reach the Capitol switchboard again and press 2 to connect to your Representative. Once you are connected to the Representative’s office, please ask the person to deliver the same message as above.

3) After completing your call, please go to to learn more about Dreamers and find other ways to voice your support at: https://justiceforimmigrants.org/

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Jesus, savior of the world

God’s Love is stronger than any evil in the world, once and for all. That doesn’t mean free will cannot be taken. That doesn’t mean bad things are not going to still happen to good people. That doesn’t mean that the laws of life are not going to run their natural course. That doesn’t mean that there will be no natural disasters, accidents, failures, pain, or suffering. It doesn’t mean that. But it does mean that the door, which gives us access to victory amidst every crisis, has been opened. It means that God’s Love entered into the world to provide the remedy to heal every heart.

Father Sophrony explains the Cross, the Resurrection, and the Ascension, and then proceeds to the mission of the Spirit. He writes, “The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, came down to earth to glorify this Love.” What Love? Jesus who came, who was crucified, and who conquered. Jesus Incarnate is our incarnation. In the cross and resurrection, Jesus came, was crucified, and yet He conquered. As Fulton Sheen said, “He was born to die”  – to give His life for us on the Cross.

No other religion speaks like this. A lot of religions have things in common, like values and virtues on a natural level like be charitable and loving. Christianity has a lot in common with world religions in the human level.

But when it comes to the vertical, supernatural level, Christianity is unprecedented. And utterly unique.

Father Sophrony explains, ‘The Holy Spirit came down upon earth to glorify this Love of Christ and to guide the faithful into all truth,’ as Jesus says in John 16. The Holy Spirit came to bear eternal witness — He came to bear eternal witness to the endless enlargement brought about by this Love.  Finally, Father Sophrony says, “The Holy Spirit came to bear witness to Christ as the Savior of the whole world.”

Father Sophrony quotes from Corinthians II 6:13 and Chapter 3 when he speaks about Christ’s endless enlargement, this “unlimited horizon.” Saint Paul says, “The Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” And then Paul continues, “We behold Jesus’s face unveiled, unlike Moses in the temple.”

In the New Covenant, we have full access, so we unveil our faces to behold His Face, and in doing so, we are transfigured, transformed, and metamorphosed, from one degree of glory to another – through the Spirit who is living within us. That’s the endless enlargement brought about by this Love.

SOURCE: New Mexico Retreat, 2017, “First Love Exodus”

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Christ’s passion, His free gift

Photo credit: Lorelei Low, OCDS

Mysticism is grounded in the Passion of Christ. In His Passion, He takes possession of all people. Fulton Sheen said, when Jesus ascended into Heaven, He mystically went into the heart of every human being that would ever live, and He took a part of our hearts with Him, so that our hearts would be incomplete until they are united to His Heart.

St. Augustine says, ‘Our hearts are restless until we rest in Him.’ Only in Christ can we fully discover ourselves. He is the Fullness of God, who fully reveals Man to us.

When Jesus takes possession of us, that does not mean that He imposes His Love. God is so amazing, in His humility and despite His great power. He is all-powerful, except for one thing: He does not interfere with our free will.

Love could not be otherwise. Because Love, by its nature, has to respect and reverence the other. Love does not micromanage, control, or manipulate. Love respects the other; it can only invite, can only welcome, can only say, “Follow me!” but can never order.

Love is a two-way street; it’s reciprocal and dynamic; it’s an exchange and dialogue. God is all-powerful, except for one thing – He will not interfere with free will.

Though by His Passion, He symbolically takes possession of all people, that doesn’t mean that our salvation is guaranteed. It means that His Love is unconditionally offered to all people, without limits. He offers His love unconditionally to all people, without exception. Nobody is excluded, except for one condition: that we recognize that we are sick and in need of a healing physician, who is Christ Himself.

The only condition is humility. Know that you can’t save yourself. That’s all it takes. Know you cannot save yourself; you are not your own savior. Don’t be like Eve in the garden, who thought she was going to become her own God – to discern what was good and evil, right and wrong, truth and lies – for herself. That’s the number one deception, the backbone of all lies and sins: pride.

Humility is the only thing that saves. Humility is the root that bears the fruit of love. Humility opens us the gift of Love. Without humility, we cannot receive the gift of Love— we’re closed!

Father Sophrony’s explains, “The cross, the resurrection, and the ascension of Jesus are the supra-cosmic victory of unqualified Love.” The supra-cosmic victory of unqualified Love. In other words, God’s Love is so unconditional, that when Jesus was crucified on the Cross, in Him, that sacrifice was all-encompassing of the entire cosmos, and that sacrifice brought victory. God’s victory prevails over every evil in every reality.

SOURCE: New Mexico Retreat, 2017, “First Love Exodus”